One Night In Hell – Chapter One

I’ve just completed my latest project, a supernatural thriller called One Night In Hell. I’m posting the first chapter here to see what you think.

Everything seemed to stand still. Time itself had stopped. All the clocks in the house had ceased ticking and the world had frozen, gone inexplicably silent.

It was as if maybe there had been an earthquake and this was the aftermath. A holocaust in which the world had ended. Not with a bang but a whimper. The everyday sounds of the traffic outside were silenced. Even the birdsong.

Fred was talking, saying something about how he thought she was too good for Nick. He continued to speak, but his mouth was merely working around the words, as if she had gone deaf and was trying to lip read. His kindly lined face embodied his concern. Because whenever it occurred, Freya was aware of her features transforming to the colour of alabaster.

This was not the first time it had happened. It happened when she was a teenager, living with her grandmother in County Galway after her parents had died. She was sitting at the big oak table in Granny O’Mara’s kitchen. They were discussing Christmas, she remembered, when the world seemed to go disturbingly quiet and frozen, the way it was now. When she looked at her grandmother, her features had transposed to those of a living skull. Grandma died within the month.

Fred Murchison was still talking. She watched, cold, uneasy, because his lips were now moving from a grinning death’s head. Her entire body had grown numb, paralysed with cold despite the heat of the afternoon. Such a terrible depression overwhelmed her that she felt close to tears.

The day she had seen her grandmother’s homely features transform in such a way, Freya had fled the room in tears. She had learned how to control the premonitions over the years and they had, as she grew older, become less frequent.

Instinctively the clocks resumed their consistent ticking again.The birds sang outside the window. She could hear the hum of the traffic that had ceased so abruptly.

Fred was by her side immediately, an arm around her, a look of abject concern on his face. “Are you alright, my dear? You went so pale just now, as if you had seen a ghost,” he remarked. This kindly old man. She patted the hand he rested on her shoulder. Dear Fred. How could she possibly tell him that he had but a short time to live? For her premonitions invariably came true.

Freya regarded him incomprehensibly for a moment. He was Fred once more. The crumpled lived-in face that was as familiar to her as her own. She touched it to ascertain that he really was okay, at least for the time being.

“I don’t know what came over me.” She brought a limp hand to her brow, as if she were about to faint. Her face continued feeling cold, the backs of her legs remained numb and stiff, but the sensation began to wear off as the life returned to them. “What happened?” She feigned ignorance, not daring to tell him what she had seen.

“You went as pale as death, my dear. When you flung a hand in front of your face I thought you were about to faint. I’ll ring for Meadows to bring you a drink of water. I’ll go and call Nick.”

“I’ll be alright in a moment.” Leaning her back against the comfortable chair rest, she closed her eyes. “Though I won’t say no to Nick being here.”

“Of course.” Fred patted her hand sympathetically again. “Must be this wretched heat.  Unusual for October isn’t it? Forgive me for being personal, my dear, but you’re not pregnant are you?” Aged blue eyes twinkled.

“Not as far as I know.” She laughed and lay a hand gently on his arm. “But you’re right, it probably was the heat. I’m feeling much better now.”

“Good. Now you rest a while. I’ll fetch that husband of yours.”

Fred was interrupted by his manservant, Meadows, who had been otherwise occupied cleaning grass stains from Nick and Freya’s six year old son’s jeans. Simon had spent most of the afternoon playing with Fred’s Jack Russell, Scamp, on Fred’s vast estate. Their son absolutely doted on the small dog. The boy bounded into his mother’s arms with whoops of delight and cuddled into her. Freya stroked her son’s dark hair as if he had been away for hours instead of a few moments. Fred cautioned him not too make too much noise as his mother wasn’t feeling too well. Simon’s enthusiasm was immediately replaced by concern and he touched a palm to her forehead. “Sorry, mummy. What’s wrong? Have you got a headache?”

“No, sweetheart, it was just the heat that’s all.”

“I believe that Master Alan has arrived,” Meadows announced. Although Alan Murchison was in his early thirties, Meadows continued to address him as ‘Master’. “Shall I serve dinner now, Sir Frederick?”

“You might as well,” Fred told him, although he couldn’t keep from regarding his young guest with concern. He had known Freya since before she married ‘the yank’ as he mentally christened Nick Monroe. There was no doubt that Freya O’Mara had certain powers inherited from her grandmother. The seventh child of a seventh child. Freya had been little more than a teenager, when she first arrived from her native Ireland, and she had helped Fred, and his late wife Adele, to rid themselves of a troublesome spirit in his expansive Berkshire estate. His son Alan had fallen in love with the beautiful young woman with the alluring green eyes and celtic red hair. Fred guessed that maybe his son remained in love with her. Then Freya, accompanied by her friend Rosa, took their ‘show’ on the road as it were, and went to America,. She met Nicholas Monroe, an ex-Army Captain from Tennessee. They ultimately fell in love and Simon was born.

The manservant departed and Fred turned back to her. “If you’re not up to it, you could always lie down in your room for awhile.”

“Thank you, Fred, but I really am feeling better now. Sure, you mustn’t worry about me.” She offered him a wan smile, unable to forget what she had seen.

“Well, if you get anymore of those turns, you ought to see the doctor. You might only be thirty four, but you can’t be too careful. It could be your blood pressure. I should know.” He tutted, shaking his head. Fred had already suffered a warning heart attack, and had been diagnosed with  angina. Freya was convinced that his heart giving out that would probably take him in the end.

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